Technology drives Indian Railways into digital era

Technology drives Indian Railways into digital era

Summary: India's railways Web site sold 500,000 passenger tickets in a single day--a new record for the organization which manages one of the world's biggest rail operations.


The Indian Railways sold a record 500,000 passenger tickets online in a single day, and it expects this number to climb higher on the back of new technology upgrades.

On March 1, Web site sales surpassed the previous high of 496,000 e-tickets sold on July 7, 2012, according to a report Monday in The Hindu Business Line, which quoted an official from the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).

The Indian Railways transported over 8 billion people--or more than 20 million passengers daily--and sold over US$5.5 billion of tickets to passengers its financial year 2012, according to the latest budget documents.

Minister for Railways Pawan Kumar Bansal wants a greater share of sales to be transacted via the Web site, which had been criticized for its inability to handle large volumes. 

In a speech to parliament on February 26, when he revealed the Union Budget, Bansal outlined a number of technology initiatives to make it easier to ride trains. These include an online ticketing facility which operations will be extended to 23 hours a day, enabling e-tickets to be purchased via mobile phones, introducing an SMS alert service to notify commuters about the status and success of ticket reservations, and equipping more trains with the real-time information system (RTIS) to access information online.

Further, a new next-generation ticketing system would be in place by the end of 2013, which will be able to sell 7,200 tickets per minute--over three times more than the peak load today--and support 120,000 simultaneous users, or three times the present capacity, Bansal said.

"I plan to roll out a more efficient and people sensitive Railway Services system,'' the minister added. ''It will bring about a paradigm shift in internet rail ticketing by significantly improving end-user experience in respect of ease of use, response time, as well as capacity."

"The capability can easily scale up as demand increases in future," he said.

The minister also plans to integrate the ticketing system with the Aadhar database, the country's identity database which stores biometric information of hundreds of millions of Indians. Bansal has already spoken to Infosys founder Nandan Nilekani, who is chairman of the unique identification authority of India--the body tasked to manage the Aadhar project.

"[It] can be extensively and efficiently used by railways not only to render more user friendly services such as booking of tickets and validation of genuine passengers with GPS-enabled handheld gadgets in trains, it can also provide a better interface with its employees in regard to their salaries, pension, and allowances," the minister said. 

Topics: E-Commerce, Software, India

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  • Technology drives Indian Railways into digital era

    Does this mean they're using iPads to swat people off the roofs of the trains now?
  • Indian Railways in a Bind

    The report above stated that Indian Railways 'transported over 8 billion people--and sold over US$5.5 billion of tickets'. That's a paltry 69 cents paid by each passenger on average! Of course, the reality is that folks riding First Class paid much more, to partially subsidized the rest -- and teeming millions paid little to nothing at all. Economics 101 will say that is not an efficient way to run a business or to allocate resources.
    • Whats your point?

      its the same as airfare. First class always pays more because they get special privileges.
      They even get a air conditioned waiting room.
      If you increase the price then simply they will take the bus. Its these 90% that keep the economics running for the railways not the 10% who pay a premium
      If you balanced the rates(and for what joy? The First class has a lot more features its luxury travel) it would not sustain.
      You must be from America or must be a wannabe american. Cause in America the rich pay lower taxes LOL
      Maha Rawj
      • The Points Are Two

        1. Airlines compete -- they raise and they lower their fares. They sometimes make money. Most are viable businesses that generate enough to keep up its assets -- or even expand.

        2. Indian Railways loses money -- year after year. With millions riding for free, there isn't enough money for proper maintenance -- never mind expansion.

        You needn't talk about America. The state of Indian Railway's rolling stock cannot even be compared to Indonesia's -- never mind Thailand or Malaysia -- or China -- or the East Asian tigers!
  • Railways

    Indian railways isn't the worst managed large organisation in the world. In fact, to the contrary, it does quite well in the circumstances it operates in.

    Still this does not mean there is no mismanagement or lack of common sense / sense of national appeal in the decesions IR makes. some thoughts

    1. Privatisation of some routes is a path IR must explore
    2. IR is sitting on a gigantic amount of land bank in prime locations in may cities across India. It's time a special authority is set up to look into unlocking that real estate potential. The excpected windfall can transform teh railways into a world class enterprise. on par with Eurorail and Amtrak
    Atul Malhotra
    • Yes

      There is no reason why Indian Railway cannot succeed. But first, I think it needs to get most (not all, but most) of the government off its back. Indian Railways shouldn't be viewed as a semi-charity where jobs are bloated and millions can ride for free. It needs to be given both responsibilities and accountability.

      I fear that unlocking assets now would just be throwing them into a big black hole.